Iran Bomb 311.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
WASHINGTON – A former University of Teheran professor warned Wednesday that the
US, Israel and Iran have “approached the end game” where “very difficult
choices” will have to be made.
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Farideh Farhi, speaking at an event
organized by the US Institute of Peace, also assessed that turning up pressure
on Iran has had an effect – one of pushing Iran further away from the
“The combined US policy of sanctions and offers of
talks without preconditions is having an impact, just not the intended one,” she
“The escalation has been so drastic on both sides it has made it
almost impossible for both sides domestically to make compromises,” she
contended, arguing that when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program, “It actually
entrenches the worst aspects of Iranian policy. I do not believe that it will
Whereas before the sanctions conservatives in Iran had disagreed
with Ahmadinejad’s tactics, she said, they have “widely supported” him ever
Farhi and most of the panelists at Wednesday’s event agreed that
whatever the effects, sanctions were unlikely to convince Iran to halt its
But Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli-Iranian analyst,
He thought that sanctions could possibly lead to Iranian
concessions in negotiations, which is why he praised the Obama administration
for enacting tough sanctions as well as keeping the door to diplomacy
He said that the American outreach to Iran – and the subsequent
refusal of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to accept the US offers – had
helped Israel significantly by strengthening the international case for
But Javedanfar also said the effort to stop Iran’s nuclear
drive had been hurt by Israel’s own actions.
He charged that Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision not to extend the recent settlement
freeze, which Palestinians have made a condition of continuing peace talks,
played directly into Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hands.
decision to end the settlement freeze was a gift for President Ahmadinejad,”
according to Javedanfar. “He would have loved the opportunity to take the focus
away from Iran and put it on the West Bank. The current Israeli government did
it for him.”
Javedanfar described Israel as more isolated than ever, and
said that by not resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and not talking to
Syria, the country is “strengthening the hand of Iran.”
Department official Steven Simon said that both the US and Israel have the same
goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb, but they differ on what
“a nuclear-capable Iran” means. While the US doesn’t want Iran to be able to
rapidly assemble a bomb if it chose to, Israel’s red line was in an earlier
stage of enrichment for such a bomb.
“The difference between those red
lines leaves quite a lot of room for error,” he warned.
Simon noted that
in the past Israel had taken unilateral military action – such as in the case of
its attack on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in the early 1980s – “as a last resort” when
it felt the international community had turned its back on the
Still, he said he didn’t think that Israel would risk its
relationship with the US over an attack, though he added, “they might misjudge
He listed other factors affecting an Israeli decision to
attack, such as whether sanctions, diplomacy and covert actions have been
exhausted; whether Israel felt it could succeed in setting back the program at
least three to five years, and whether it would have an uncontested flight plan
for reaching Iran.
A US Institute of Peace expert, Scott Lasensky,
suggested that another consideration for Israel would be the strategic context.
He noted that during the first Gulf War, when Israel exercised restraint and
didn’t respond to Iraqi missile attacks, it was in the context of a massive US
military build-up and active US exercising of force.
“One problem today
when you think about [Israeli] restraint,” he said, “is that Israelis don’t see
the United States preparing for a credible threat to use military action, and
it’s heightened their sense of isolation.”